:
GREATER CONEY
Category: Love Letters
"Next Sunday," said Dennis Carnahan, "I'll be after going down to see
the new Coney Island that's risen like a phoenix bird from the ashes
of the old resort. I'm going with Norah Flynn, and we'll fall victims
to all the dry goods deceptions, from the red-flannel eruption of
Mount Vesuvius to the pink silk ribbons on the race-suicide problems
in the incubator kiosk.

"Was I there before? I was. I was there last Tuesday. Did I see the
sights? I did not.

"Last Monday I amalgamated myself with the Bricklayers' Union, and in
accordance with the rules I was ordered to quit work the same day on
account of a sympathy strike with the Lady Salmon Canners' Lodge No.2,
of Tacoma, Washington.

"'Twas disturbed I was in mind and proclivities by losing me job,
bein' already harassed in me soul on account of havin' quarrelled
with Norah Flynn a week before by reason of hard words spoken at the
Dairymen and Street-Sprinkler Drivers' semi-annual ball, caused by
jealousy and prickly heat and that divil, Andy Coghlin.

"So, I says, it will be Coney for Tuesday; and if the chutes and the
short change and the green-corn silk between the teeth don't create
diversions and get me feeling better, then I don't know at all.

"Ye will have heard that Coney has received moral reconstruction. The
old Bowery, where they used to take your tintype by force and give ye
knockout drops before having your palm read, is now called the Wall
Street of the island. The wienerwurst stands are required by law to
keep a news ticker in 'em; and the doughnuts are examined every four
years by a retired steamboat inspector. The nigger man's head that
was used by the old patrons to throw baseballs at is now illegal;
and, by order of the Police Commissioner the image of a man drivin'
an automobile has been substituted. I hear that the old immoral
amusements have been suppressed. People who used to go down from New
York to sit in the sand and dabble in the surf now give up their
quarters to squeeze through turnstiles and see imitations of city
fires and floods painted on canvas. The reprehensible and degradin'
resorts that disgraced old Coney are said to be wiped out. The
wipin'-out process consists of raisin' the price from 10 cents to 25
cents, and hirin' a blonde named Maudie to sell tickets instead of
Micky, the Bowery Bite. That's what they say--I don't know.

"But to Coney I goes a-Tuesday. I gets off the 'L' and starts for the
glitterin' show. 'Twas a fine sight. The Babylonian towers and the
Hindoo roof gardens was blazin' with thousands of electric lights, and
the streets was thick with people. 'Tis a true thing they say that
Coney levels all rank. I see millionaires eatin' popcorn and trampin'
along with the crowd; and I see eight-dollar-a-week clothin'-store
clerks in red automobiles fightin' one another for who'd squeeze the
horn when they come to a corner.

"'I made a mistake,' I says to myself. 'Twas not Coney I needed.
When a man's sad 'tis not scenes of hilarity he wants. 'Twould be
far better for him to meditate in a graveyard or to attend services
at the Paradise Roof Gardens. 'Tis no consolation when a man's lost
his sweetheart to order hot corn and have the waiter bring him the
powdered sugar cruet instead of salt and then conceal himself, or to
have Zozookum, the gipsy palmist, tell him that he has three children
and to look out for another serious calamity; price twenty-five cents.

"I walked far away down on the beach, to the ruins of an old pavilion
near one corner of this new private park, Dreamland. A year ago that
old pavilion was standin' up straight and the old-style waiters was
slammin' a week's supply of clam chowder down in front of you for a
nickel and callin' you 'cully' friendly, and vice was rampant, and you
got back to New York with enough change to take a car at the bridge.
Now they tell me that they serve Welsh rabbits on Surf Avenue, and you
get the right change back in the movin'-picture joints.

"I sat down at one side of the old pavilion and looked at the surf
spreadin' itself on the beach, and thought about the time me and Norah
Flynn sat on that spot last summer. 'Twas before reform struck the
island; and we was happy. We had tintypes and chowder in the ribald
dives, and the Egyptian Sorceress of the Nile told Norah out of her
hand, while I was waitin' in the door, that 'twould be the luck of
her to marry a red-headed gossoon with two crooked legs, and I was
overrunnin' with joy on account of the allusion. And 'twas there that
Norah Flynn put her two hands in mine a year before and we talked of
flats and the things she could cook and the love business that goes
with such episodes. And that was Coney as we loved it, and as the hand
of Satan was upon it, friendly and noisy and your money's worth, with
no fence around the ocean and not too many electric lights to show the
sleeve of a black serge coat against a white shirtwaist.

"I sat with my back to the parks where they had the moon and the
dreams and the steeples corralled, and longed for the old Coney. There
wasn't many people on the beach. Lots of them was feedin' pennies into
the slot machines to see the 'Interrupted Courtship' in the movin'
pictures; and a good many was takin' the sea air in the Canals of
Venice and some was breathin' the smoke of the sea battle by actual
warships in a tank filled with real water. A few was down on the sands
enjoyin' the moonlight and the water. And the heart of me was heavy
for the new morals of the old island, while the bands behind me played
and the sea pounded on the bass drum in front.

"And directly I got up and walked along the old pavilion, and there
on the other side of, half in the dark, was a slip of a girl sittin'
on the tumble-down timbers, and unless I'm a liar she was cryin' by
herself there, all alone.

"'Is it trouble you are in, now, Miss,' says I; 'and what's to be done
about it?'

"''Tis none of your business at all, Denny Carnahan,' says she,
sittin' up straight. And it was the voice of no other than Norah
Flynn.

"'Then it's not,' says I, 'and we're after having a pleasant evening,
Miss Flynn. Have ye seen the sights of this new Coney Island, then? I
presume ye have come here for that purpose,' says I.

"'I have,' says she. 'Me mother and Uncle Tim they are waiting beyond.
'Tis an elegant evening I've had. I've seen all the attractions that
be.'

"'Right ye are,' says I to Norah; and I don't know when I've been
that amused. After disportin' me-self among the most laughable moral
improvements of the revised shell games I took meself to the shore
for the benefit of the cool air. 'And did ye observe the Durbar, Miss
Flynn?'

"'I did,' says she, reflectin'; 'but 'tis not safe, I'm thinkin', to
ride down them slantin' things into the water.'

"'How did ye fancy the shoot the chutes?' I asks.

"'True, then, I'm afraid of guns,' says Norah. 'They make such noise
in my ears. But Uncle Tim, he shot them, he did, and won cigars. 'Tis
a fine time we had this day, Mr. Carnahan.'

"'I'm glad you've enjoyed yerself,' I says. 'I suppose you've had a
roarin' fine time seein' the sights. And how did the incubators and
the helter-skelter and the midgets suit the taste of ye?'

"'I--I wasn't hungry,' says Norah, faint. 'But mother ate a quantity
of all of 'em. I'm that pleased with the fine things in the new Coney
Island,' says she, 'that it's the happiest day I've seen in a long
time, at all.'

"'Did you see Venice?' says I.

"'We did,' says she. 'She was a beauty. She was all dressed in red,
she was, with--'

"I listened no more to Norah Flynn. I stepped up and I gathered her
in my arms.

"''Tis a story-teller ye are, Norah Flynn', says I. 'Ye've seen no
more of the greater Coney Island than I have meself. Come, now, tell
the truth--ye came to sit by the old pavilion by the waves where you
sat last summer and made Dennis Carnahan a happy man. Speak up, and
tell the truth.'

"Norah stuck her nose against me vest.

"'I despise it, Denny,' she says, half cryin'. 'Mother and Uncle
Tim went to see the shows, but I came down here to think of you. I
couldn't bear the lights and the crowd. Are you forgivin' me, Denny,
for the words we had?'

"''Twas me fault,' says I. 'I came here for the same reason meself.
Look at the lights, Norah,' I says, turning my back to the sea--'ain't
they pretty?'

"'They are,' says Norah, with her eyes shinin'; 'and do ye hear the
bands playin'? Oh, Denny, I think I'd like to see it all.'

"'The old Coney is gone, darlin',' I says to her. 'Everything moves.
When a man's glad it's not scenes of sadness he wants. 'Tis a greater
Coney we have here, but we couldn't see it till we got in the humour
for it. Next Sunday, Norah darlin', we'll see the new place from end
to end."
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